Saturday, March 4, 2017

Fragrant Roast Chicken

The special spices used to flavour this roast chicken are selected for fragrance and taste, to open the appetite, to aid digestion and be soothing on the stomach. It was specially created for persons who may be sensitive to strong seasonings like pepper, onion and garlic. The basic overnight marination applies, though you can get away with marinating for just a few hours. As always, preparation is as important as cooking.

Roasting slow and low keeps the meat moist and juicy; basting with the pan juices gives the golden colour.

Whole chicken, about 3-4 lbs, cut in halves down the back and breast bones
Salt, 2 heaping teaspoons

Spice rub:
Whole geera (cumin), heaping teaspoon
Coriander, teaspoon
Star anise, 2 or 3 whole flowers
Ginger, piece the size of the thumb, chopped
Brown sugar, 3-4 heaping teaspoons
Soy sauce, 2-3 teaspoons

Clean chicken and split in two. Rub with salt, cover and refrigerate overnight (or about 3-4 hours).

In the morning, grind spices (geera, coriander, star anise, ginger). I use a coffee grinder.
Mix the ground spices with sugar and soy sauce.

Drain the chicken from any bloody water that may have accumulated. Put some spice rub under the skin between thigh and breast. Put some on the inside cavity. Rub all over the skin on wings and legs.
Allow to marinate for at least 2-3 hours.

Heat oven to 330 to 340F. Slow and low is one way to achieve moist chicken whose juices mingle well with your marinade.

Place chicken halves in a baking dish and pour any seasonings over the skin. Bake for 2 to 3 hours in all. After the first hour, pour off the juices and use to baste the chicken. Do this every half hour for the 2-3 hours of cooking.

Cool before cutting the chicken. Serve with mashed potatoes or white rice and a simple salad.

Serve pan juices on the side, so they can be used with mashed potatoes or white rice.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Green Days

Warm seasons are salad days: crisp raw lettuce or arugula tossed in olive oil and celery vinegar, sea salt and fresh ground pepper; topped with chopped raw mushrooms, hard-boiled eggs or tart dried cranberries.

But when the weather is colder, and the greens are heartier - broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, gai'lan, chinese cabbage, kale, mustard, choysum or bokchoy as well as those that we eat the roots of, daikon (moorai), turnip, radish - you'd do well to serve your greenstuff cooked and warm.

These greens are high in vitamin C and soluble fibre, and you need to know how to cook lightly and not kill the goodness. They belong to the family called Cruciferae (cruciferous or "cross-bearing" because the four petals of their flowers resemble a cross) or Brassicaceae.

Two heads of broccoli for two or three persons

Today, we'll serve broccoli. Not smothered in a heavy cheesy white sauce, which is yummy too; but cooked and served with an early supper. Good by itself; with a side of meat or mushrooms; or with fluffy white rice.

Broccoli head (one head for two persons)
Garlic, one or two cloves, finely chopped
Olive oil, tablespoon or two
Himalayan pink salt
Splash of vinegar (or squeeze of lemon), optional

Wash broccoli and shake off water. Cut the stem end and strip tough outer skin. Slice the stem in half-inch rounds and cut the florets in bite-size bouquets. Arrange in a bowl. Top with chopped garlic, salt and generous olive oil. Microwave for three minutes. Remove and toss. Check whether it is cooked enough for your taste. If you want a more tender broccoli, microwave for another minute; test and cook 30 seconds more as you like.
Broccoli, stripped and cut up, with chopped garlic and olive oil

Steam for three minutes in the microwave. Test for crunch or "doneness."

Broccoli seasoned with garlic, Himalayan salt and olive oil, on a bed of white rice!

Gai'lan is a good green to serve with stir-fried thinly sliced beef. Cook the meat first, then add chopped greens. Or cook separately. 

Gai'lan stems with green leaves, three or four stems per person
Garlic, clove crushed
Ginger, small piece chopped
Sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon or to taste
Grapeseed oil, two tablespoons

Wash gai'lan and shake off water. Strip stems and cut in rounds or lengths. Cut up leaves and put in a separate bowl.

Heat oil, add garlic and ginger and salt. Saute stems for about two minutes.  Add leaves and toss until they start wilting. Turn off and allow the greens to sit for a minute. Serve by itself with rice, or as a bed for slices of cooked beef or pork.

Not gai'lan, this is bok choy. Cooking method is the same.

Gai'lan lightly cooked with ginger, garlic and olive oil!


Pork tenderloin, half loin (about six ounces)
Soy sauce, tablespoon
Brown sugar, half teaspoon
Ginger, small piece, crushed and chopped
Garlic, two cloves chopped
Oil, two tablespoons
Cornstarch, half teaspoon

Season tenderloin in soy sauce, sugar and ginger, at least half hour or longer.
Heat pan at medium, add oil. Add garlic. Put meat in and allow to brown on all sides. Add the marinade seasonings. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and allow to cook about 8-10 minutes. Add cornstarch to a couple tablespoons water and add to pot. Cook for a minute more. Remove from heat, slice tenderloin in thin slices and serve on top of cooked gai-lan, with white rice on the side.

You can cook tender strips of beef instead of pork tenderloin. Season beef with soy sauce, sugar and ginger. Stir-fry quickly (within three minutes) and use cornstarch to make a sauce. Serve on gai'lan, with rice on the side.

My tried and true method is two cups water to one of rice.
Bring rice and water to the boil, at high heat. Once the water is boiling vigorously, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and allow rice to absorb all water. Your rice should be cooked in 10 minutes. Use a fork to toss rice.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Ricotta Pancakes

These moist fluffy cake-like pancakes were featured in Bonappetit October 2015.
They get their moistness from ricotta; their lightness from beaten egg whites; and fresh flavour from lemon zest.
We don't like a lengthy process for breakfast so here's my simplified version.
Have all ingredients ready. Oil your griddle or frying pan.

Mix moist ingredients in one bowl:
Eggs, 4 yolks
Ricotta, one and a half cups
Milk, three quarters cup
Lemon zest, one teaspoon grated

Beat egg whites until fluffy, about 3 to5 minutes.

Mix dry ingredients:
Flour, one cup
Sugar, one teaspoon
Salt, barely a teaspoon
Baking powder, one and a half teaspoon

Whisk moist ingredients, add dry ingredients. Beat in fluffy egg whites.

Drop half cups of batter onto hot griddle. Flip when bubbly.
Serve with butter and honey or maple syrup (original organic from Canada here), and fresh fruit or stewed guavas.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sweet Potato Rolls

This is adapted from the November 2015 edition of Bon Appetit magazine: Pull-apart Potato Rolls. It substitutes a plump Trini sweet potato for the large Yukon gold potato called for in the recipe. It is also simplified. Bread made with love and care is very forgiving.
Sweet potatoes grown by Narvin for the Green Market Santa Cruz

Choose a round or long sweet potato

Sweet potato, one large (mine come from Narvin in the Green Market Santa Cruz)
Milk, about one cup and a splash of goat's milk
Flour, about four cups
Yeast, one packet dried
Brown sugar, two heaping tablespoons
Eggs, 3 beaten
Salt, a tablespoon
Oil to grease pan
Butter to wipe on the tops of the rolls

Boil potato until a knife goes in easily. Peel and crush - use a potato ricer and remove stringy pieces.
Mix milk in crushed potato and whisk to remove lumps. Mix in one and a half cups flour, yeast, sugar. Mix to a sticky moist dough. Cover and let dough rise, approximately 30 minutes.

Beat eggs and salt.  Mix eggs and two cups flour into the dough. Add flour by handsful as you knead to a soft sticky consistency. Roll into a ball and cover. Allow to rise another 30 minutes or so.

Grease a baking sheet (approx. 9 by 13 inches or slightly larger) with vegetable/ coconut oil. Roll small balls (size of a small egg). Set out balls on the baking sheet almost touching: you should get 18 to 24 balls. Brush with butter and sprinkle with sea salt. Allow to rise for 15 minutes or so - while oven is heating.

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake rolls for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes or so before serving.

Sweet potato rolls

Anytime rolls with right amount of sweet and lightness

Friday, August 7, 2015

Pak cham kai or boiled chicken

Some Sundays, my mother would boil a whole chicken. Far from the plain pale dish that you might conjure in your mind, it was an economical but flavourful meal with noodles and a cornucopia of greens and vegetables that left you satisfied and feeling virtuous for having eaten so well so heartily and yet so simply.

Well before we used to enjoy Mummy's "pak cham kai" which she called it in the Cantonese dialect, our grandfathers were well-known for making one chicken serve the extended family. All parts of those chickens were utilised in the meal: from the comb (if it was a cock) to the feet; and included liver, gizzard, heart, lungs and cock's eggs. We children were well-versed in the anatomy of a hen or cock even though we hardly ever saw the leg, thigh or any part intact on our plates.

When this August (2015) issue of the Bon Appetit magazine featured Sichuan Chicken with Noodles (, I read with my taste buds and travelled back almost 50 years to my mother's kitchen. When my mother's grand-daughter in far-off Australia came down with a bad sore throat and cold, I imagined the remedy, the soup from a whole chicken replete with ginger, pearl barley, patchoi, lo bok (daikon, moorai, white turnip). I decided to make it.

Here's the 2015 version of my mother's Pak Cham Kai, or the more fashionable Sichuan Chicken with Noodles.

Whole Pak cham kai or Sichuan chicken, simmered with star anise and a bay leaf

Rice noodles and vegetables cooked in chicken broth

The Chicken
The wholesome chickens that are grown by my friend in Santa Cruz average four to five pounds cleaned. I prepare one of the smaller ones (four pounds) by making sure the inside is empty of lungs, kidneys etc; and salt overnight: one to two tablespoons salt applied in the cavity and the space between leg and breast.
Use a large pot for your whole chicken: this is an eight quart pot for a 4-5 pound chicken

The chicken is not "boiled" at high heat, but rather poached or simmered. In a large pot - I used an eight quart pressure cooker half full of water - bring the water to boil with three or four star anise; tablespoon of whole peppercorns; thumb-size ginger, sliced; scallions (or onion bulbs of chive); one-quarter cup of soy sauce. Place the whole chicken in the liquid - make sure it is submerged (add a little more water if necessary) - and reduce heat to simmer. Cook uncovered for an hour, turning chicken once. After an hour, remove the chicken to a plate and allow to cool. The chicken will have a natural glaze from its own fat.

The Rice Noodles
Use the broth to cook eight ounces of rice noodles. Usually these cook within six to eight minutes. Drain noodles from broth and sprinkle with olive oil (or sesame or grapeseed). Use the broth to cook your vegetables: broccoli; lo bok; carrots; patchoi; sweet peppers. You shouldn't need to add any seasonings. Drain vegetables and pile into the dish with the noodles.
Pile on vegetables that have been poached in the broth

Favourites here include broccoli, patchoi, sweet pepper

The Broth
You have the basis of a rich chicken soup, which may be enhanced with pearl barley; pumpkin, carrots, any vegetables or greens which you may have on hand. If the broth is a little salty, cube a potato and add it.

Serve the chicken sliced or jointed, accompanied by the noodles and vegetables.

Don't be fooled by how plain this meat looks. Flavour, fragrance and tenderness right to the bone.

Any chicken leftover may be used in sandwiches; or chicken salad. this chicken is infused with the fragrance of star anise which is the star ingredient alongside a wholesome farmed chicken.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fudgy Coconut Chocolate Brownies

Here's a brownie mix that uses no dairy. Coconut oil and full fatted unsweetened chocolate deliver the rich flavours of coconut and chocolate.

Coconut oil (best quality you can find) 3/4 cup
Unsweetened (70%) baking chocolate, 4 to 6 ounces
Brown sugar, 1 cup
Vanilla essence, 1 teaspoon
Eggs, 3
Salt, pinch
Flour, 3/4 cup
Grated coconut (fresh or frozen) 3/4 to 1 cup

Preheat oven to 350F. Line square dish with parchment; or grease with a spoonful of coconut oil.

Coconut oil from Tobago went into this batch of Coco Brownies!

Heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add chocolate and stir as it melts. Do not allow it to burn. Cool and add sugar, salt and vanilla essence (optional). Stir in eggs one at a time. Beat well - maybe 40 - 50 strokes. Mix in flour, stirring well. Add grated coconut.

Turn into dish and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool before slicing.

Coco-chocolate brownies: moist texture, coconut fragrance, chocolate chewiness!,

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Go Italian with focaccia!

Focaccia is an Italian bread made with olive oil and seasoned with herbs and sea salt. It's wonderful with salads, or just by itself with a saucer of olive oil and balsamic vinegar or a soft cheese. Over Christmas, we used it to soak up callaloo or the redbeany sauce of oxtails. Even those who don't like to put their hands in dough will enjoy kneading this bread. Cook in a hot oven (400F or 200C) and it's done in 30 minutes. This recipe is derived from the Bon Appetit or Epicurious on-line cookbook ( and will be perfect with the smallest effort.

Focaccia with fresh rosemary

Water, one cup (human warmth)
Yeast, one teaspoon
Salt to taste
Brown sugar, two teaspoons
Flour, three heaping cups plus some
Olive oil, quarter cup

For topping:
Olive oil, quarter cup
Rosemary, fresh crushed leaves, tablespoon
Chadon beni, 6 or 8 leaves clipped in small pieces
Sea salt, teaspoon

Add brown sugar and yeast to water and leave to ferment, 15 minutes to half hour.

Add flour and mix with olive oil. Knead the dough to combine well. Dust with a little flour if it is sticky. Olive oil keeps this dough silky and soft. Cover and set aside in a warm place to rise, an hour or more.

Punch down dough, dust with a little flour and knead. Cut in two to roll out. Or you may roll out in one large rectangle to fit your pan. I find it easier to roll out two smaller pieces. When rolling, leave the dough to relax for a few minutes as you shape it.

Grease pan with olive oil. Allow the dough to rise again, an hour or so.

Mix rosemary or shadon benie into olive oil with salt, for topping.
Heat oven to 400F or 200C.

When the dough has raised, use your finger to put a few indentations in the surface and spoon the olive oil topping over the top.

Bake for 30 minutes. The bread will be golden brown. Remove from the oven to cool. Cut into squares for serving.
Focaccia with rosemary just out of the oven

Focaccia with chadon beni - this went well with callaloo!